Pentagon & Congress

Senators want answers after Army doesn't search for AWOL suspected rapist

Two prominent senators have called on the Army to respond to reports that the service did not search for a private who went AWOL after being suspected of sexually assaulting underage girls in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Pvt. Jameson Hazelbower went absent without leave after learning he was suspected of raping a 15-year-old girl, the Associated Press reported in March. He was later implicated in the sexual assault of two more underage victims near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he was stationed.

The self-described sex addict was free for nearly three months before local police arrested him in Winnebago, Illinois, near where he grew up, according to the AP.

"If accurate, this report reveals a grave breach of public trust in the military's ability to track and apprehend dangerous criminals," wrote Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a letter to acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy.

The senators cited the Associated Press article, which describes how the Army "failed to initiate a search" for Hazelbower, according to a press release.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment on interpersonal communications between members of Congress and senior Army officials," Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

The AP investigation found Hazelbower left Fort Campbell in January 2014. The Army issued an arrest warrant describing him as a violent sexual predator and a flight risk, but he was not pursued by law enforcement, according to information released by the senators.

Hazelbower's eventual arrest happened by chance, when a police officer responded to a call late on a Friday night in March 2014 about a suspicious vehicle parked in a cul-de-sac outside an apartment complex, the AP reported. Hazelbower, his pants down to his knees, was in the car with a girl who was barely 14; she was unharmed, according to the AP.

In their letter, Boxer and Gillibrand asked Murphy for answers as to why the U.S. Marshals Service was not alerted to search for Hazelbower, despite agreements that allow the Marshals to assist the military in apprehending dangerous criminals.

"We are aware that Private Hazelbower has [since] been tried and convicted in military court and sentenced to 50 years in prison for child rape, desertion and other offenses," the senators wrote. "However, it is deeply concerning that a known child rapist was allowed to desert his military post for three months without pursuit by law enforcement."

Boxer and Gillibrand also asked Murphy to assure them that "a thorough and timely investigation has been initiated and that safeguards have been put in place to prevent similar events in the future."

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